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Litigation

Litigation

Bracewell has one of the nation’s leading litigation practices. For over 70 years our lawyers have been handling almost every type of commercial dispute, earning the respect of both judges and our adversaries. We have built our reputation on winning our clients’ toughest and most significant litigation, although we also excel at handling their small and medium-sized matters. 

Our outstanding courtroom advocacy, creative thinking, and grit continue to receive extraordinary recognition. Chambers USA (2016) remarked on our “creative approaches to disputes.” Legal 500 (2016) called us a “litigation powerhouse,” noting our “broad range of high-value disputes". Law360 (2016) likewise recognized our leading litigation practice, naming us to its inaugural list of Litigation Powerhouses, which identified the top fifty litigation practices in the nation. Law360 (2016) further highlighted Bracewell as being part of an “elite group” of only five firms with fewer than 200 litigation attorneys included on its list of “litigation heavyweights.”

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Bracewell’s appellate practice and lawyers are recognized nationally by publications such as Chambers & Partners USA and Legal 500 US. The group is headed by one of Texas’ most experienced appellate lawyers, and includes a former law clerk on the U.S. Supreme Court and former law clerks on other federal and state appellate courts. Our lawyers have briefed and presented oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Supreme Court of Texas, federal courts of appeals nationwide, and state appellate courts throughout Texas.  Bracewell’s appellate team has a wealth of experience in high-stakes commercial cases and in a wide variety of subject-matter areas, including energy, environmental, insurance, and intellectual property.

Clients rely on Bracewell’s appellate lawyers to analyze legal issues rigorously and creatively, write briefs that are sophisticated yet readable, and efficiently use the limited time at oral argument to persuade judges on the most critical points. We are frequently sought to handle appellate work from clients represented in the trial courts by other firms. We also regularly join a client’s legal team early in order to shape strategy and preserve error with a view towards success on appeal.

Bracewell’s construction litigation team brings first chair courtroom experience and technical industry knowledge to construction disputes, representing clients in state and federal courts and in arbitration proceedings. Clients reported to Chambers USA 2016 that our “dedicated, professional and knowledgeable” construction team “handles difficult situations with professionalism.” In addition to litigation and arbitration matters, we counsel an array of owners, product manufacturers, homebuilders, general contractors, and design professionals in internal investigations and in developing strategies to minimize or resolve potential claims without undermining business objectives and relationships.

Cyber preparedness is necessary to mitigate the risk arising from a cyberattack. With the proliferation of e-commerce, electronic record keeping, and improved data collection techniques, the incidence of cyber intrusions have increased such that it is not a question of whether a data breach for any given system will occur, but when. Twenty-first century data breaches involve sophisticated attacks on the network and information systems which underpin modern commercial and corporate activities for companies of all sizes. This malicious activity affects all types of entities including retail companies, financial institutions, investment advisors, energy companies, governmental agencies, and other commercial or business ventures. 

At Bracewell, we work with our clients to develop and implement information security plans to minimize risk and to insulate management from the regulatory and shareholder scrutiny that inevitably follows a breach.   Preemptive activity can also streamline the time and expense of the response effort in case of a breach by ensuring that a rapid response plan is already in place and available for implementation on short notice. And when data breaches occur, we assist clients in managing all aspects of the incident, including the deployment of effective media and governmental communications to mitigate and minimize repercussions, both financial and reputational.  Our team is comprised of a diverse array of lawyers across a range of disciplines that reflect the myriad client needs in the cyber arena, from former prosecutors to seasoned civil litigators and strategic communications experts.

Bracewell’s labor and employment group has great depth of experience in litigation, with trial experience including Federal Labor Standards Act  (FLSA) collective actions, complex Employee Retirement Income Securities Act (ERISA) litigation, and employment discrimination jury trials. Bracewell takes a business-minded approach to employment litigation and has an exceptional record of avoiding trials with successful dispositive motions and favorable settlements. In situations in which it is appropriate for a case to go to trial, Bracewell’s team is ready. In addition to employment trial experience, Bracewell’s team has substantial jury experience in non-labor matters, including criminal proceedings.

Bracewell’s energy focus—We Know Energy®—extends to our trial lawyers, who excel in disputes involving issues unique to the energy industry.  In the oil and gas arena, we have fought and won cases involving joint operating agreements, development agreements, royalty disputes, title disputes, surface use agreements, environmental issues, damaged well bores, and oilfield intellectual property, including patents and trade secrets.  Our power practice includes representing some of the largest power producers in the world in litigation and arbitrations throughout the United States and before state and federal regulatory bodies.  From cross-border disputes to renewables, our team has addressed every major issue faced by the power industry. 

Legal 500 (2016) remarked on the firm’s “stellar client base of leading energy companies,” and Chambers USA (2016) reported our clients’ respect for our “knowledge of the industry,” characterizing Bracewell as “[a] leading firm with highly impressive expertise across the range of energy work.

Recognizing that many industries face ever higher expectations for compliance with state and federal mandates, ESG assists companies in developing, implementing, and continually improving strategies for cost-effective compliance with all major state and federal environmental programs. We represent clients in enforcement proceedings and incident investigations, including parallel civil and criminal actions in high-profile matters. Our attorneys are also widely recognized for their strength in auditing, audit disclosures, and compliance management systems. In the litigation context, we are able to combine the experience and talents of our nationally-recognized environmental regulatory practitioners with our seasoned trial lawyers, drawing on decades of experience in the courtroom as well as familiarity with the regulatory and technical details on which these cases often turn.

At Bracewell, we counsel our clients, who are increasingly exploring new business opportunities around the globe, about what to expect from Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement and how to navigate these legal challenges within a complex international business environment. We help U.S. and multinational companies at every stage of the compliance and investigation process, reviewing delicate transactions and conducting due diligence on potential foreign business partners or agents, establishing FCPA compliance programs, and working with enforcement officials when sensitive situations arise.

We work with companies in virtually every sector of the global economy, including energy, aerospace, technology, manufacturing and business services.  We notably represent companies that do business in high risk regions, where the use of joint ventures, sub-contractors and other third parties is commonplace and where export controls are required. In recent years, our lawyers have assisted clients with FCPA concerns in China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Europe, Dubai, Kuwait,  India, and Mexico. Whether a company is seeking compliance advice or is under investigation, we possess the experience and knowledge to help.

Bracewell’s financial institutions litigation practice draws upon the firm’s full global resources in areas of law that directly impact financial institutions. In every matter we handle, we develop a strategic plan that aligns with the clients’ goals and meets expectations as efficiently as possible. We represent U.S. and international banks, thrifts, trust companies, broker-dealers, specialty finance organizations, and private equity groups. We have years of broad and diverse experience representing financial institutions and financial services industry clients in complex litigation, arbitration, and mediation. We work closely with our transactional and regulatory lawyers to advise our clients of risks in the current environment so that they are able to avoid future litigation. 

In an environment of increased regulatory vigilance and enhanced financial incentives to whistleblowers, corporations must proactively ensure compliance with applicable statutes and regulations. Bracewell’s lawyers routinely conduct internal investigations worldwide for companies in the financial, technology, energy, insurance, and retail industries to contain and resolve issues such as corporate governance practices and procedures, directors' duties and responsibilities, corporate codes of conduct, and compliance with Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and financial exchange regulations, as well as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Bracewell’s IP lawyers combine their litigation and technology experience to provide efficient and effective representation of our clients in complex IP matters in venues across the United States, including the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) and the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Our team members, many of whom are registered patent attorneys with advanced technical degrees, are able to present persuasively technical details  to judges and juries, and represent U.S. and international companies in a variety of industries including computer, software, energy, media, retail, telecommunications, and finance.

At Bracewell, we are particularly well-suited to serve as Monitors and Independent Auditors in a wide variety of matters because of  our partners’ previous experience at the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Offices and District Attorney’s Offices.  Our attorneys’ management of investigators and prosecutors in the public sector, and their knowledge of sophisticated investigatory methods, have enabled them to develop skills critical to performing duties as a Monitor.

Of particular note is Judge Barbara Jones, who presided as a federal judge in the Southern District of New York for 17 years.  Judge Jones was a member of the American Bar Association Corporate Monitor Standards Committee and assisted in authoring the ABA-approved standards for monitorships. She also served as the chair of the Response Systems to Adult Sexual Assault Crimes Panel, created by Congress in 2013. In that position, she was tasked to review and assess the investigation, prosecution, and adjudication of sexual assaults in the U.S. military.

Public and private companies, boards of directors, committees of boards, individual directors, and individual officers regularly turn to Bracewell to defend them in all aspects of securities litigation. Our practice includes defending securities fraud class actions, fiduciary duty claims, shareholder derivative actions and M&A, proxy and corporate governance litigation. Bracewell’s securities litigators have represented clients in numerous federal and state courts across the country, including Delaware. Our securities litigators conduct audit committee and special litigation committee investigations in response to shareholder, governmental and internal demands. Our teams are prepared to take our cases to trial, recognizing in reality that many cases in the securities arena are dismissed at the pleading stage or otherwise are resolved prior to trial. Lawsuits, claims and investigations frequently run on a parallel basis, and our team is adept at managing all aspects of these actions to optimize efficiency and results.

Bracewell’s White Collar Defense, Internal Investigations and Regulatory Enforcement Practice lawyers guide business institutions, executives and employees through the challenges associated with investigation and prosecution.  Federal and state prosecutors and regulators, armed with new statutes and increased penalties, are placing institutions and individuals under increased scrutiny.   As market commentators have noted, Bracewell lawyers have  “distinguished themselves in ways unmatched from many other firms.”  We conduct internal investigations, defend clients in criminal, civil and regulatory investigations or prosecutions and  assist with corporate compliance programs.  

Our battle-tested team includes a former federal judge and attorneys who have served in leadership positions in the U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ), including Chief of the Criminal Fraud Section; the U.S. Attorney's Offices for the Southern District of New York and the Northern and Southern Districts of Texas; the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); the New York County District Attorneys' Offices; and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).  We handle matters related to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, environmental crimes, broker-dealer violations, accounting and financial fraud, government contracts and False Claims Act/qui tam matters, healthcare fraud, tax and antitrust issues.

Experience

Recent Notable Matters

Apache Corporation — Bracewell represented Apache in this energy sector lawsuit. The plaintiffs were landowners who leased their land for oil and gas production to exploration companies, including Apache. The plaintiffs claimed their land was contaminated by NORMs (naturally occurring radioactive materials) that were deposited in surface soils during oil and gas operations on the site dating back to the 1950s and earlier. Bracewell won summary judgment shortly before trial gutting plaintiffs’ damage model, and then obtained final judgment in favor of Apache.

ASARCO LLC — Sterlite agreed to buy ASARCO’s assets out of bankruptcy and reneged. The case went to trial where it was established that Sterlite had breached, and a $132.75 million damage award was obtained.

BG Group US — In two related arbitrations, we established BG’s right not to pay for unused midstream transportation capacity, and the obligation of the operator to market all hydrocarbons produced.

Eni S.p.A. — Bracewell defeated entirely a $6.4 billion claim against our client Eni for the value of an oil and gas concession off the coast of West Africa.

GDF Suez Energy North America — Participants in the U.S. energy futures derivatives market alleged that our client GDF Suez used its bidding strategy to manipulate the market, causing them to suffer tens of millions of dollars in damages. Bracewell conducted an aggressive defense of GDF, developing a comprehensive motion to dismiss that the district court granted in full.

Layline Petroleum — Our client Layline Petroleum sold oil and gas interests to Wapiti Oil & Gas for $375 million; a dispute arose over the post-closing purchase price adjustment. In arbitration we prevailed on our opponent’s claim for a downward reduction, and in fact achieved an upward increase.

MS Financial, Inc. — Our client MS Financial, a bank holding company, was sued by its shareholders alleging fraud and breach of fiduciary duty arising from the sale of the assets of one of its banks to a group of insiders. After we convinced the court to dismiss the core claims, the plaintiffs settled the remaining claims.

Mueller Chen & Co. — Energy investment bank Mueller Chen & Co. represented Hong Kong-based United Energy Group in its acquisition of BP’s oil and gas assets in Pakistan for around $800 million. IEVM claimed it was owed a $46.5 million success fee following the acquisition. We obtained the dismissal of all claims against our client Mueller Chen & Co., a victory which was affirmed by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Vopak Terminal Deer Park — Vertical, a Brazilian ethanol trading company, asserted claims for breach of contract and fraud against our client Vopak and sought damages of $30 million plus punitives and attorney’s fees. Following dramatic revelations obtained by Bracewell from Vertical’s own witnesses and documents, Bracewell obtained the complete dismissal of the case one week before trial.

Waste Management, Inc. — In one of the largest environmental enforcement cases ever tried, Bracewell represented two Waste Management entities against civil penalty claims brought by Harris County, Texas and the State of Texas for more than $5 billion arising from the alleged pollution of the San Jacinto River. Bracewell first secured complete dismissal of the claims against the parent company, Waste Management, Inc., on summary judgment before trial. Bracewell then  represented Waste Management of Texas as co-counsel in the ensuing five-week trial. Immediately before closing arguments, the government settled with Waste Management of Texas for less than 1% of the amount of penalty it had requested during trial. Texas Lawbook called the trial “one of the greatest defense verdicts in Texas history.”

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